On talking with the enemy

On talking with the enemy

How should we treat our enemies? That has been and still is one of the most important questions for humankind throughout history and into the future. Some would refuse altogether to talk or associate with the enemy—for many that may translate into hatred, which soon escalates into violence and war. For others, the biblical principle of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is the correct response to our enemies. Today this seems rather barbaric to many peaceniks, yet in biblical times it was a more progressive way of treating one’s enemies, since it defined the limits of retaliation. Rather than killing the enemy plus all of the members of their family or clan or village, etc., the limit was one eye for one eye, one tooth for one tooth, actually a more merciful, less barbaric practice than prior to this principle. However, in contemporary times, one of the most popular critiques of this principle came from Mohandas Gandhi, who said that if we lived by an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, everyone in the world would be blind and toothless! If Gandhi was right, I suppose that would make war more difficult, since one could no longer see one’s enemy.

The editors of the Christian Century, commenting on the recent visit of Iran’s president to the U.S. suggest that folks talk with their enemy. Read more about it here: http://www.christiancentury.org/article.lasso?id=3759 . Jesus’ way involves more than talk though, love—tough and otherwise—is the way we are called to treat our enemies. This love involves it seems praying for the enemy, blessing those who curse you, when someone strikes you on one cheek, offering them the other one as well, not asking for your goods/property back if someone takes it. Read more about it in Matthew 5:33-48 and Luke 6:27-36. This higher way, antithetical teaching of Jesus is certainly equally as tough for those disciples who seek to follow this path as it is tough for “the enemy” recipients. Yet, if followed to the letter and in the true spirit of Jesus, I’d speculate that the consequences for the world would be absolutely revolutionary!

Meanwhile, governments and the mass media around the world have too much money to lose to give even a one second consideration to such an approach to the enemy—war and violent television programs and movies are the bread and butter of the real world it seems. Or is the opposite equally or even truer: Do governments and the mass media around the world have too much money to lose if they fail to pay attention to peace, love and non-violence? Maybe, too, some things are more valuable than money—another revolutionary thought!